EPISODE 359
Chris Duffin
Chris Duffin: How to Focus on Impact for Maximum Results

Mark speaks with Chris Duffin, inventor, thought leader, and serial health and fitness entrepreneur. Chris has founded multiple companies, including Kabuki Strength, where he currently serves as Chief Visionary Officer, and is the author of The Eagle & the Dragon, a memoir.

Chris Duffin
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Show Notes

Today, Commander Divine speaks with Chris Duffin, health and fitness entrepreneur, author of The Eagle & the Dragon, and founder of Kabuki Strength. In this episode, Chris shares about growing up homeless as a child, his philosophy on fitness, and how he hopes to help people build resilience across every area of their lives.

Key Takeaways:

  • Weightlifting teaches you about life. Weightlifting can teach so many applicable lessons, but we often miss the connection. For example, some high-powered businessmen may execute amazing deals and strategies in the office, but then start flailing when they get to the gym. All they have to do is apply their planning and management skills, set expectations, and follow through. The inverse applies for people who get amazing results in the gym, but lack discipline in their work and home lives.
  • Strength training should be empowering. As a trainer, you should lead someone toward not needing you. The individual has the largest amount of power in overcoming pain and creating change in their body. The trainer’s job is to provide the right methodology, the right tools, and the right mindset. When people learn those three things, they can own everything.
  • Focus on impact. When it comes to fitness, Chris focuses on efforts that are going to make the biggest impact. For example, the ability to manage and control spinal mechanics has the largest global impact on the body, which is why Chris decided to do a 1,000 pound squat and deadlift for 3 reps each. Chris takes the same high-impact approach in business as well. Case in point: the mechanics of the foot has the second largest global impact on the body, which is why Chris started Bearfoot, a minimalist shoe company.
  • Chris’ Grand Goals. Chris has three main Grand Goals that he lives his life by:
    1. Demonstrate. Chris walks the walk to show what you can accomplish with the principles he teaches.
    2. Inspire. Go for it. Shoot for something that is just so crazy that nobody’s ever done it. Chris revels in showing people that if you set your mind to it, you can pull off things that seem impossible (like 3 reps of 1,000 pounds).
    3. Be charitable. Chris has done a lot of feats of strength that also tie back into charity fundraisers for causes he believes in.
  • The future of fitness. Chris’ company Kabuki Strength makes purpose-built barbells to help athletes train more safely and efficiently. They currently produce groundbreaking equipment for 90% of the NFL and MLB teams, but they’re not stopping there. Chris hopes to create a complete ecosystem of education, training tools, and data as it relates to the technology and art of coaching. He hopes to reinvent the typical gym in the future and change the face of fitness, eventually scaling to integrate with clinical care.

Quotes:

“[Weightlifting is] one of those things where it teaches you that discipline to action over time, is going to yield results. If I put in effort, and I know that I’ve done this, no one can deny the fact that I’m physically stronger. I’m a more resilient person, I can see the changes in my body. And it’s just, it’s really empowering.”

“You see the person that does so much in the gym, right? They’ve been there for years, they’ve had amazing results. They understand training and planning, all that sort of stuff, the mental aspects of it, but they’re a failure in their work life. And it’s like, dude, you know how to do all this. Take how you approach the gym, the mental aspect of it, and shift that over to these other parts of your life.”

“I believe that strength training should be empowering. And you should be leading someone towards not needing you… I’m talking about this as a trainer, as a physical therapist, as a chiropractor, anybody that’s working in these fields. The individual has the largest piece of power in overcoming and making the change in their body, overcoming pain, all these sorts of things. And then your job is to provide the education, the direction… it takes the right methodology, the right tools, and the right mindset. That’s what a gym should be. Those three things. You teach that and people can own everything.”

“Turning around a company is about making change to people on an individual level. It’s empowering people, getting them to step outside of what they think is possible and seeing what they can accomplish. You start doing this stuff one on one, and that’s what changes an organization. And so that’s what I loved about it. This was where I needed to go. I needed to, as a whole, shift my entire life around helping people focus on development of resilience.”

“The next thing you know, you’re working with 29 of the 30 major league baseball teams, because our stuff is really foundational things, but reinvented. But it’s for everyone.”

“I want to create a complete ecosystem of education, training tools, and data as it relates to the technology and art of coaching, all the equipment that can reinvent this gym. Again, based on accommodation for variability, and mobility leverages training needs, as well as clinical care. I want to change the face of fitness all the way through with this integration with clinical care.”

Mark Divine 1:24
Coming up on the Mark Divine show,

Chris Duffin 1:27
I was putting out educational content online. And the stuff that I did was having such a huge impact around the globe, like people watching it, getting out of pain. That’s what I loved in business. Turning around a company is about making change to people on an individual level, right? It’s getting them to step outside of what they think is possible and, and seeing that they can accomplish, you start doing this stuff, one on one, and that’s what changes an organization. And so that’s what I loved about it, like, this is where I need to go, I need to shift my entire life around helping people focus on development of resilience.

Mark Divine 2:06
Welcome to the Mark Divine show. I am your host, Mark Divine, super stoked to have you here with me today. Thank you for joining me. On the Mark Divine show, I dive in and discover and discuss what makes the world’s most inspirational, compassionate and resilient leaders so courageous and fearless. I talk in-depth with people from all walks of life, from martial arts grandmasters, monks, CEOs, military leaders, Stoic philosophers, proud survivors of the craziest things. And each of our episodes turns our guests’ experience into actionable insights that you can follow and use to lead a life filled with compassion and courage.

Today, I’m excited to interview Chris Duffin. We’re going to be talking about mindset and resilience in overcoming insurmountable odds. And Chris is the only man in the world to squat and deadlift 1000 times for three reps each. That’s incredible. He’s one of the strongest men in the world, pound for pound, and he’s an incredible entrepreneur and teacher. He co-founded Kabuki Strength, where he’s the Chief Visionary Officer. And as you’ll learn in the podcast, he’s invented multiple game changing products used by, I mean, 90% + of NFL and Major League Baseball teams.

Chris has invented multiple game changing products, improving human biomechanics underload, as well as systematized approaches to assessing and correcting human movement dysfunctions. Interestingly, Chris was also raised in a very dysfunctional and chaotic environment, which he tells about in his book, The Eagle and the Dragon, where he talks about growing up homeless and overcoming all the challenges and learning how to deal with rattlesnakes and serial killers in extreme poverty, and finally raising his actual three siblings, because his parents kind of lost the capacity to do that.

Chris, thanks for joining me today. Welcome to the Mark Divine show, your book The Eagle and the Dragon, you talk about your life story. And I think that’s a great place to start. So give us the lowdown on what your childhood was like. And, you know, what were some of the major forces that shaped who you are, and got you into strength and conditioning?

Chris Duffin 4:12
Yeah, so I definitely grew up a little bit different. I always try to frame it as not necessarily saying it’s hard, or was harder. And certainly not like, harder than anybody else’s life. We all have our own struggles and strife. But it’s a great way to articulate just how far you can move the needle in life. Because I did grow up homeless, it was my parents’ choice, that they didn’t want to be part of society, and they were trying to, you know, forge a path outside of that.

And so we were in the mountains in Northern California. And that is living in tents, living in tree forts, people are like, why tree forts…. Well, I know you’re in Carlsbad, but there’s a lot of rattlesnakes as you get a little up into those northern areas. And so we’d have rattlesnake dens by our house. So that’s actually how my book starts out as me at six years old. We’ve got beams lashed up into the trees, that’s where we’re sleeping. And I’m being taught how to capture and handle live rattlesnakes at six years old. And you’d be like, why? Well, they were part of my life. They were, they were around me, I needed to know how to protect myself. Right?

Mark Divine 5:16
Fascinating. So you actually lived in the trees your dad built like, what platforms to live in? Or what was that like?

Chris Duffin 5:24
Yeah, at that time, you know, you’d take three trees and kind of make a triangle. So you’d lash three beams between those. Okay, that’s where our sleeping was. But that was more of a rare instance. Like I said, there was rattlesnake dens, like just right all over the place in that area. But a lot of times it was either tents, or during the school year, we’d move closer to town and we’d be you know, in houses or sometimes a condemned home. Actually, I think not too long after that. We were in a condemned home for like a year, no electricity, no running water, no doors, just a, you know, a frame of a house that was abandoned, you know, decades before, but sometimes it was, you know, later in life in Oregon. We spent a series of years in some cabins that were like hunting cabins. They had electricity, might not have had like running water or toilets or anything like that. So it was heated by fire. But yeah, a lot of my life grew up you know, it was by candlelight. A flashlight, stepping out the back of a cabin to, you know, bathe by pouring water over myself from the snow. During the summer was great because you could would fill up all our jugs down in the stream, right and then set them out on a rock all day in the sun, and just let those heat up. And then late afternoon, you could have a great shower, taking the gallon jugs over your, over your head.

Chris Duffin 6:44
But it was interesting in that fashion, because it’s like, you find out that there’s a lot of unsavory characters that maybe are away from society, because they had reasons to not be around it not for the reasons like my parents of trying to, to make their own way. And so during the course of that, I mean, dealt with murderers, there was a serial killer. And actually in California, dealt with human trafficking. So if you ever have the opportunity to watch the documentary, Murder Mountain on Netflix, that was 50 miles away from one of the areas we spent a couple of years. So when it’s talking about serial killers, and human trafficking and corrupt police and all that sort of stuff, you’d be like, holy cow. That’s the life that we lived. And so we were taken by the state for awhile, me, my three sisters, younger sisters, and my younger brother. My parents got us back. We were living in Northern California, they were growing weed, like that’s what they, we lived up in the mountains.

Mark Divine 7:42
Were they good parents, to you? I mean, did you perceive them to be good? I mean, what was the parenting like, besides, you know, what society would say about them dragging you around without a house?

Chris Duffin 7:52
So yeah, there’s a lot of things, their perceptions that could be had around that. But we were very close, you know, it was us against the world. And it was really, there’s a lot of bonds around that. And we had a lot more time to spend together. You know, but I was out, helping cut wood, I was out like I was working with them. All the time I was the one if they were out doing something that I couldn’t be involved with, I was the one at home or camp, taking care of my sisters and my brother, and we read. My parents were really well read and always involved in discussions around politics or science or some avenue. So we were always reading books and learning. We didn’t have TV, maybe we did every now and again like a little battery, I remember this little thing that was like, yay big. You know, like a little seven inch screen with some batteries. But we would go to the library and just get massive stacks of books and I said candlelight flashlight, because that’s what every evening was, sitting there reading and then there was always a big push on the the intellectual side, which is why I ended up doing I think pretty well in school

Mark Divine 9:01
Did you go to traditional school or were they homeschooling?

Chris Duffin 9:03
I went to traditional school. Okay. That was interesting. I mean, that was challenging for me, just because I was always moving, you know, you show up to school, your clothes aren’t clean, you might smell funny, definitely not in style, let alone like the, you know, the internal drama that’s going on in your mind, going I’m the kid living in the trailer down by the river. And you think everybody knows this stuff about you, and is judging you. And so I can’t say that I had the best childhood, you know, going to school as a result of that. But by the time High School hit, I really think I was starting to come into my own. I was realizing a lot of confidence because I was raised in a very physical environment. We were doing things all the time. And again, I was so well read, I was years ahead in school. And so by the time I hit high school, I was starting to develop a lot of confidence in those arenas, and so I ended up excelling in both sports and academics. So I was valedictorian, I was a state level athlete, I was doing pretty good at that point in time. Except still maybe a little socially awkward, probably, I guess, as a result of that.

Mark Divine 10:17
Right? Where do you bring the girl home when you don’t have a home?

Chris Duffin 10:23
Exactly. High school was actually the first time we had a stable environment. So my stepfather all this time that he had been raised me which was my entire life. He’d had a broken arm, and he was running the chainsaw feeding crops doing all this sort of stuff with a broken arm and it just kept wearing away and he finally got a disability suit, got a few $1,000 and put a downpayment on a mobile home. So that happened like at the end of my freshman year in high school, so all through high school for those three years. We didn’t move. I had the same place, we had electricity, we had running water, and we had to throw plastic over the windows because it was cold and the wind would blow right through and it didn’t have doors in the house. So hung up bedsheets for the bathroom and bedrooms and didn’t have a kitchen so you got some two by fours and threw something up, put a sink on and then you know, just stacked everything else all around the floor, but it was a solid stable place. It was a home. And that was the first you know, long period like that in my life at that point.

Mark Divine 11:26
So what sports did you get into in high school?

Chris Duffin 11:29
Well, the most interesting one is probably, anybody who has an idea of my lifting background, is that I did cross country. And this is not the one that one of the ones where I was a state level, I was like the worst person on our team. By far. All the girls outran me. I was a big lumbering guy, but I was getting in shape for wrestling, right. That was the one I really excelled at. I didn’t start that til my freshman year. So I didn’t have like a long history like a lot of wrestlers would. I was horrible. My freshman year, I lost every match the entire season. Up until the last two matches, I finally went to. But by my senior year, I went all the way through districts, all the way through state all the way up to the final match without even having a single offensive point scored against me. And then I ended up losing to the three time state champion head game, because I got too cocky and made some moves that I basically lost the match myself, which was unfortunate, but Track and Field was the third one I was in. District level, I wasn’t state level there. I didn’t understand, like, specificity. So like I ran the 100 the 200, the 400, the 800, the 1500, the 3000. I did. I did long jump shot put, Javelin.

Mark Divine 12:49
Must have been a small team.

Chris Duffin 12:50
I did everything. And so I was pretty good at everything. But I didn’t understand specialization because I was like, you know, the 400. I was running the mid, the mid 50s. Like if I just dropped a couple seconds off, all of a sudden, you’re like you’re way up there. But I was also running the 3000.

Mark Divine 13:10
That’s interesting. Interesting your coach didn’t nudge it toward a little bit.

Chris Duffin 13:14
The coach actually nudged. He had this Ironman principle, he encouraged and they have like a separate word for people that like, made it through and competed and like everything in a season. And that was like, kind of the approach that I took, and it wasn’t necessarily the best, but it gave me a lot of exposure. And I was pretty good at most of those things.

Mark Divine 13:32
That’s cool. So how did you get exposed to traditional weightlifting?

Chris Duffin 13:37
I got exposed to weightlifting during the course of it. So junior high. It was the typical boy moving into teens. For me, I had a lot of self confidence issues. I picked up some ankle weights down at the used goods store with some money I learned from mowing lawns. And then I scoured the nickel ads and bought some of those plastics to make covered weights. The first year I just like

Mark Divine 13:59
Were they cement covered plastic or plastic covered cement.

Chris Duffin 14:04
The cement covered plastic ones with like the little hollow steel bar.

Mark Divine 14:08
Okay. Yeah, like cement dumbbell type things. Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome.

Chris Duffin 14:14
So I started just doing like with jump squats and push ups and running with the ankle weights and then was making money from mowing lawns started to invest in those weights, and it was 1988. I think I was like 13 years old, 12 years old when I started lifting, and then in high school continued, actually learning a little bit more about lifting, taking PE classes with my track coach who was a Olympic caliber Olympic throw discus thrower back in the day, and shot putter. So he knew a lot about weightlifting.

And that just became part of my life. Like I started building a lot of confidence. It started having just like this big impact on me from a mental or emotional perspective. And it just, it was just something that became part of me, it was like for me at the time I balanced it because I was, I was the nerd. I was the straight A student that knew everything. Like I said, I read all the time. And it was the balance to that. And my stepfather was really encouraging of it because he used to be an athlete back in the day, he was an artist, used to lift weights, and he loved that and always encouraged this behavior of like doing things with your hands, being an individual that isn’t just, you know, a thinker, but can actually do something with their back as well. And so it was that type of mentality was encouraged. For quite some time, my mom was actually a really incredible athlete. That’s where I think my genetics came from, is my mom’s side, not my father’s side. So that became just a huge piece of mine. And I took a little bit of a break while I was going to college. Then I went right back to it. So maybe there’s like a year and a half in the late 90s I didn’t lift and then I got into competitive lifting in 2000. So that’s, yeah, just been with me forever.

Mark Divine 16:06
That’s fascinating. I’d love to talk a little bit about why you think weightlifting makes, you know, leads to increased confidence. You know, it’s more than just getting strong. There’s certainly the spillover effect of hey, I’m stronger therefore I’m more confident. But there’s something to do with the focus, the concentration power, you know, just getting under load. What do you think is going on in terms of why it makes you more confident?

Chris Duffin 16:31
It’s one of those things where it teaches you that discipline to action over time, is going to yield results. If I put in effort, and I know that I’ve done this, no one can deny the fact that I’m physically stronger. I’m a more resilient person, I can see the changes in my body. And it’s just, it’s really empowering. I work quite a bit with Special Olympians. And if you’ve ever worked with them weightlifting, it’s actually one of the most powerful things that you can do for them. Because so many times they’re used to having, you know, doing something, and it’s like, it’s the rah rah, you’re doing great. But no one has to, like, they know it’s real. And also, the implications is it also helps them live a better quality of life to some level as you develop that, but it’s real. And it’s massive to see the transition that goes on, when you’re working with Special Olympians over a period of time, as they see the results. They know that they’re making improvement. It’s really crazy to see that, overseeing their participation in other activities. So it’s, it’s really cool.

Getting back to your question, you know, like, for me, specifically, in that arena of time? Yeah, I think it does relate to building the confidence of knowing that your actions can lead to change, that you have control over your body, that you can start seeing, like, I have a plan in place, you know, here’s the next three months, you start learning concepts like project management, you know, for example, like, here’s where I’m gonna go, you develop a plan, you follow through on the plan, maybe you went into some problems along the way, but you overcome them. And you work around that. And so you discover your ability to manage through, let’s say, fail your results that are the desired outcome, that you can still come back around and make those changes.

I think, weightlifting, as a whole, can tell you so much about life. And we miss that connection, we just go to the gym, oh, this is the thing that I need to do. Right? The high powered business executive that comes in and they’re flailing around, their trainer’s got to get them dialed in, it’s like, dude, you know how to manage a plan over time and how to set expectations and follow through and things don’t happen, you know, you know all this stuff, execute here. Then you also see, the person that does so much in the gym, right? They’ve been there for years, they’ve had amazing results. They understand training and planning, all that sort of stuff, the mental aspects of it, but they’re a failure in their work life. And it’s like, dude, you know how to do all this. Take how you approach the gym, the mental aspect of it, and shift that over to these other parts of your life.

Mark Divine 19:19
Right. That’s fascinating. Well, it’s almost like a learned incompetence. And I agree I’m, I had a CrossFit gym for 10 years. And you know, the strength training for us was just a big part of it. I mean, I can have guys who were there for five or six years, and every time they come in, they act like they’ve never seen a weight before. If you’ve had that, like I have to show you how to do a deadlift, again and again and again. And again, why don’t you, you know, aren’t you picking up on this? It’s just this feeling of, it’s not my arena. So therefore, I don’t remember anything, I’m not planning, I’m just going to be told what to do. I think that’s one of the flaws of a lot of coaches is they actually are okay with that, because they’re getting paid. But, you know, I would fire people because you’re not serious about this.

Chris Duffin 19:59
So I don’t have that experience, because I wouldn’t work with anybody like that.

Mark Divine 20:04
I was not that smart.

Chris Duffin 20:05
I consider it. That person needs a dog trainer, right? They need somebody to hold the leash and take them for a walk. I believe that strength training should be empowering. And you should be leading someone towards not needing you and I’m talking about this as a trainer, as a physical therapist, as a chiropractor, anybody that’s working in these fields, like the individual has the largest piece of power in overcoming and making the change in their body, overcoming pain, all these sorts of things. And then your job is to provide the education, the direction, you know, it takes three things. That’s it, those three things is the right methodology, the right tools, and the right mindset. That’s what a gym should be. Those three things and you teach that and people can own everything.

Mark Divine 20:55
Right? Yeah, so the non ramp and then off you go. When I read in the show notes, you’re one of the few people if not the only person who’s done 1000 pound deadlift for repetition. And I didn’t know that was a thing, but that’s pretty cool.

Chris Duffin 21:07
One other person has done that now. So Thor, okay, from Game of Thrones. Yeah, he did 1000 pounds for two, but he hasn’t done the 1000 pound squat either. So I’m the only person that squatted 1000 pounds and deadlifted 1000 pounds, not a specialist. And I’ve done both for reps and the deadlift is the standing Guinness World Record.

Mark Divine 21:30
How many reps did you do those?

Chris Duffin 21:32
both of them for three reps,

Mark Divine 21:33
Three reps? That’s pretty extraordinary. To have that kind of muscular stamina for under that load is. That’s the unique aspect about that, right? Because usually, it’s one and done, you’re just done.

Chris Duffin 21:45
There was methodology to that. So what I teach is all about, it’s around your body, right? So it’s how do we best use it? How do we overcome pain? What are the principles? And so from a principle based approach and look at what has the largest global impact on the body, the thing that has the largest global impact is going to be your ability to manage and control your spinal mechanics. Second one behind that is the foot, which is why I have a shoe company and produce a lot of education around the foot. And then we can start breaking down.

So a lot of my education is around breathing and bracing mechanics, and what better way to articulate that than the squat and the deadlift, two basic, primal movements. The squat is one, if you understand from a developmental kinesiology standpoint, like our first nine months as a child is learning these ingrained patterns in our head, that are in everybody’s nervous system, and it starts progressing, you know, from rolling positions to crawling to standing, and then that’s eventually basically us able to move into the squat position, and be able to squat is fundamentally in everybody’s neurology, so every able bodied person should be able to do this.

And under load, managing the spinal mechanics becomes, it demonstrates that. Deadlift is literally being able to pick something up off the ground, right? Fundamental, every able bodied person should be able to master picking up something from the ground. And so again, these are the two most demanding, so that’s where I chose that I wanted to go just over the top, I want to do 1000 pounds for both of these. And I want to do it for reps, and the reps piece was doing it for a longer period of time, puts more demand on the ability to control those resources. So for me, three reps on a squat is about 30 seconds, that’s incredible time to have that weight, sitting on your back, and controlling it through all of that, way more than just one repetition would be.

The other reasons behind the, I call this the grand goals, I spent five years on on it. The biggest piece too is the inspiration. So one is demonstrate walking the walk, showing that the principles that I teach, what you can accomplish with those, but the inspirational side is also just going, shooting for something that is just so nobody’s ever done it. It’s crazy. If I had told people what I was going to do beforehand, I’d have been told I was crazy. There’s no way you can do it and just showing people that if you set your mind to it, you can pull off things that people think are impossible. And then the last one was charity. So during those five years, I did a lot of feats of strength related to that, as I built through that, charity fundraisers for a lot of things that I believe in.

Mark Divine 24:34
That is really neat. I applaud you for that. I have a connection to that, but not strength related. But you know, as a SEAL, we like burpees because we didn’t always have access to equipment. And so wherever you go, there’s your burpee traveling companion. So I started a program called Burpees for Vets and in 2017, and 18 or 18 and 19 actually, we did 22 million burpees. My tribe. And so that required guys like me, I did 130,000 in the year and others did you know around 100,000. I had a six person team, we had our world record was six people, three men, three women doing burpees for 24 hours. And we did 36,393 burpees. When you think of that, you’re like nah it’s not possible to do 36,000 burpees. But yeah, it is. And you would understand this. But from the moment we started to the moment we ended, nothing changed. Our pace was consistent because it was all mindset. It was all intention. We knew we were going to do it. And we just went and did it. Awesome. So you raise money for charity and then you moved out of that competition kind of and also demonstration phase, into business. So what was that transition like? Were you doing business? Kind of while you were doing the powerlifting?

Chris Duffin 25:46
Yeah, so that’s the discussion, I’ll taper back a little ways because you talk about weightlifting, feats of strength, people are like oh, that encompasses who you are. I mentioned things were rough growing up. I went to college, and during the course of going to college, I took custody and raised my three younger sisters.

Mark Divine 26:03
Oh, really? What happened there?

Chris Duffin 26:06
When I left the home, the first year and a half, two years of college things went south at home so I had some sort of stabilizing force I should have assumed, so I actually quit calling home because I was going to college, I was just working. And every time I’d show up or make a call, I would get requests for money and have to give them money. And so I’m like, Well, I just need to focus. So I didn’t contact as much. And things just went south. My mother had a mental breakdown, ended up out in Montana, stepfather continued a descent into mental illness. And my sisters, they were very young, ended up on the streets. And so I took custody, and I raised the three of them through their teenage years, while I was doing that, and pursuing my career.

I ended up going to school for dual engineering degree, got my MBA as well, while I was continuing working, I ended up being fairly successful in the, I guess, the leadership arena. Over the course of time, I ended up developing into a corporate executive that was known for turning around businesses. So I spent about 20 years doing that sort of stuff, the last 10 years, I was sought after, I’d come in and turn around, like an aerospace manufacturing company, or an automotive manufacturing company, high tech, anything of that. So that’s what I would do is go into troubled businesses, fix them, sometimes turn around and prep them for sale.

This poor kid from the sticks, you know, imagine that moving to this executive level, doing those sorts of things. Same time, I’ve got a house with a white picket fence, two kids, my sisters have all moved on by that point in time, I’ve you know, raised them into adulthood. I was still missing something in life, I owned a gym on the side. So I had a 9000 square foot gym, that I built a lot of the equipment and specialized it and I’m just like, I know that I should be doing more. And I was putting out educational content online as a fairly well known strength athlete. And the stuff that I did was having such a huge impact, you know, around the globe, like people watching it, getting out of pain, change, and I’m like, I have something here that I want to share. And I could be doing so much more. And that’s what I loved in business. It wasn’t doing the turnaround, the turning around a company is about making change to people on an individual level, right? It’s, you know, empowering people, getting them to step outside of what they think is possible and, and seeing that they can accomplish, you start doing this stuff, one on one, and that’s what changes an organization. And so that’s what I loved about it, like, this is where I need to go, I need to, as a whole, shift my entire life around helping people focus on development of resilience. Resilience of body, mind, soul. My professional expertise at this point is definitely on the physical nature of it. So in 2015, I launched Kabuki Strength with my business partner, Rudy Catlett. So we own the gym together, and I was the first employee. And it’s grown pretty significantly from there. So it’s, right now we work with 99% of all major league baseball teams, about 90% of the rest of the NFL, NBA. We got Tour de France teams.

Mark Divine
What is it you do, what’s your sweet spot?

Chris Duffin
Our sweet spot is definitely in the professional area is the MLB, NBA, and NFL

Mark Divine 29:40
Teaching lifts or providing mobility or what specifically are you doing for these people?

Chris Duffin 29:45
I have numerous patents on products, on improved biomechanics, and they’re based on the principles that we teach. So there’s an education arm of the business. So we’ve got a number of coaches, they produce content on a daily basis, they travel and do seminars, they do private seminars for the teams. And then the products. We have a manufacturing company here in Portland, I’ve got about 40,000 square feet of CNC equipment and automated cells, where we’re producing the best biomechanically sound barbells and equipment in the world.

And so these products are things that people have never seen before. So they’re new in the industry, but they allow us to remove the negative stresses, the stresses that we can’t adapt to, by being forced into positions, being forced to work with the equipment that isn’t built around how the body is meant to operate, and allows us to be able to accommodate for differences in lever links, mobility training needs, and so on. So, those products include the transformer bar, the only bar in the world that you can manipulate someone’s spinal mechanics.

Mark Divine
How does that work?

Chris Duffin
The transformer bar is a, the load shifts around so actually, what that does is the load actually stays over the mid foot, you’re actually manipulating the spine creating spinal upgrading it so I can mimic like a goblet squat. You’ve got the training background. You put that in someone’s hands, what happens is we’ve got a better diaphragm to pelvis relationship. We’ve got better engagement of the thoracic lumbar musculature and abdominal musculature to create better bracing mechanics. We’ve got again that alignment of diaphragm and pelvis coming into play so it automatically gets people in better position, all of a sudden, their squats get better.

Mark Divine 31:24
So instead of trying to adapt your body to the load, the load will adapt itself to the body a little bit.

Chris Duffin 31:29
So mine frees up and we can move this weight around in space instead of this one arbitrary spine. And so now, you can customize this for anybody’s needs, you can change how we load up. So you can think about a squat bar that is like a machine at the same time. There’s nothing like it in the world.

Mark Divine 31:49
Does it rest on the shoulders with a weight above it?

Chris Duffin 31:54
It looks similar to a safety squat bar. Yeah, executed better. But the distance from center in the rotation will allow you to shift that load around.

Mark Divine 32:00
That’s fascinating, really cool. And what’s the Kadillac?

Chris Duffin 32:04
The Kadillac bar is similar to like a multi grip bar, like a multi grip or Swiss bar for pressing, I call it playground physics. But you walk into a playground. And the teeter totter is always sitting on one side or the other. And that is because the balance point is this infinitely perfect spot, which means you can’t ever find it. And so that’s a Swiss bar, multi grip bar, and it’s always going to be destabilized in your wrist, trying to go back and crush your face. So mine is curved, the weight drops down below the hands. So it’s like a swing, where’s the swing set, automatically finds center, because center of rotation is above center of mass, feed ground physics, a teeter totter, they’re both on the same plane, which means it’s infinitely unstabilized. Have the same concept employed in our neutral grip deadlift bar, which has variability for width and height, but the neutral handle position that everybody hates, they don’t know why they hate it, because it is on center, center of mass center of rotation, ours is offset a little bit, ours is open. So you can walk into it a whole lot of other features that just make it better executed than anything else. The cue Bell, the smarter dumbbell, we play with leverages that allow you to have the same weight in your hand. But you can make the load different. So imagine being able to train for like 15, 20 minutes, three, four different exercises and never having to stop, you know, your time under tension goes way up, the metabolic effect goes up, we can loop things together, we can do all sorts of things, I could actually change the force curve of a muscle. So instead of a curl being really easy at the bottom and not developing the force till you get up to like 90 degrees, we can change it. So you can actually have similar forces at the bottom matching the peak. There’s tons of things you can do with it. With leverages that nobody really understood before and implemented in a handheld way, completely change it. The Kratos flywheel system is a pulley based product built on inertia instead of weight. Really incredible. So anyway, that’s what I do, I a have manufacturing company, I have design engineers, an education team that handles the coaching and education all built around these principles around movements and loading, to allow people to be able to develop physical resilience, limiting the amount of pain or dysfunction from that with the best biomechanically sound products out there.

Mark Divine 34:28
Is there any products that an individual can just go to your website and purchase? Are they really geared toward the professional organization?

Chris Duffin 34:35
These are ones everyone should be training with.

Mark Divine 34:37
I’m asking kind of up for myself, because that dumbbell sounds pretty damn cool. I’m gonna go get one for Christmas.

Chris Duffin 34:42
Down to a 65 year old grandmother that’s never touched the weight in her life. Yeah, that’s in back pain. Our stuff is used by the professional sports teams, because those coaches understand the principles. So I had the fastest and highest penetration, because I take it to him and they go, this, this is legit.

Mark Divine 35:02
You’re only six years old. That’s incredible, actually.

Chris Duffin 35:04
And you get introductions. And next thing you know, you’re working with 29 of the 30 major league baseball teams, because our stuff is really foundational things, but reinvented. But it’s for everyone.

Mark Divine 35:18
Is there anyone out there who’s doing anything like you’re doing in terms of innovation?

Chris Duffin 35:24
No, there is no other company that has a principle based approach to creating products. They are looking at market analysis going, what sells? What can I create that is going to sell versus the lens that we look at it is through the training or clinical aspect of what’s out there. How does it fit in truly the principles of how the body works, how training should be done, how rehab should be done? And what are the gaps to allow us to be able to have that accomplished and then all of a sudden now you start seeing the gaps and the opportunities for products. So no one else is out there because there’s education companies and there’s equipment companies. Now, the equipment companies go copy us because that’s all they’re good at. People go what’s your market analysis for creating a new product? I have none because they don’t exist. I just know what needs to be out there. What are the gaps? How am I going to accomplish things that no one else in the world has ever done? And I did it by using this stuff.

Mark Divine 36:26
Yeah, leadership is one of my passions. And I actually, went back to school to challenge myself to get my PhD in leadership at Pepperdine. So I just started that, I finished my first semester the other day. That was an interesting, painful experience. But it’ll get better. At any rate, so I noticed you’re Chief Visionary Officer and not CEO of your own company, and I had to tell you, I tried that with my company. And it didn’t work. I went through two CEOs. And finally I’m back into CEO, maybe you’re a better hire? Or maybe your partner is the CEO? Is that why it’s working for you?

Chris Duffin 36:58
My partner is the CEO. And so if he wasn’t there, maybe I’d have some of those struggles. Obviously, in my role as visionary I have a lot of influence on that in that’s my job. But I’m… to free up what I need to have from a creative side of things, to being able to see this future. And then how do I create that into reality? Now, how do I invent products? How do I align services? How do we do this? Managing the day to day operations, I’m involved in it every day, but actually being the one that manages it, I did that before. That’s what I did for 20 years. I’m really competent at it, but I can’t do both. And I’ve tried, I cannot do it.

Mark Divine 37:42
Right. If you didn’t have your partner, then you would just need an exceptional chief operating officer who basically did the same shit. You know what I mean? Allows you to be visionary. That’s kind of what I’m working on. We got to wrap up soon. This has been fascinating. I’m curious about like, what’s the next 20 years hold for you, Chris? What’s your vision for the future? How are you going to make an impact on the world beyond what you’re already doing, which is pretty cool.

Chris Duffin 38:07
I try to tie together everything that’s been in my world into products and services that I offer. So I have launched a couple other companies, but I’m going to try to not do that anymore. Bearfoot. So imagine a kid running around the woods with bears, right, shoeless, that was me, we make the best and minimalist footwear out there. And it’s just absolutely incredible stuff, my supplementation is to build fast formula, I’d like to start seeing these kind of wrapped together into more of an integrated fold. And then the future for Kabuki Strength is the integration of the clinical side as well formally, with what we do, the products and then start to the completion of the reinvented gym. And so imagine the reinvented gym, paired together with the technology for the data acquisition, that feeds into the coaching. So you look at barbell velocity HRV, all those components, to create one cohesive ecosystem that we can manage and hey, we fall outside of the norm. Here’s a clinical professional that actually understands exactly what you’re doing, how to get you back to that as quick as possible, because load provides that. So I want to create a complete ecosystem of education, training tools, and data as it relates to the technology and art of coaching, all the equipment that can reinvent this gym. Again, based on accommodation for variability, and mobility leverages training needs, as well as clinical care. I want to change the face of fitness all the way through with his integration with clinical care. Might be a little hard to articulate all that in a podcast what that looks like.

Mark Divine 39:57
No, yeah, no, you don’t have to.

Chris Duffin 39:58
And everything that I’m working on, are just little pieces. Like when I started Kabuki strength people like, oh, you’re a powerlifting company. And I’m like, Yeah, I used to power lift. And then we’ll start doing more, Oh, you’re a specialty barbell company. And then I come out with the soft tissue tools and dumbbells and flywheel. And then we’re like no, we’re a human performance company, and I’m building all the things that don’t exist. For me to create that bigger picture vision. They’re not random things. They’re not things because I think it’s going to sell, they’re missing pieces of this ecosystem.

Mark Divine 40:32
Largely, you can’t, you can’t create the whole picture because you have the vision, but the component parts don’t exist yet, the technology’s still to be developed, some by you and some by others. But holding that vision and driving toward it, you know, the pieces will start to fall into place.

Chris Duffin 40:47
So, a couple other things real quick. So my book, The Eagle and the Dragon, check it out. So it is an incredible story that was really helpful for anybody. It’s written for the reader. I also have another book coming out next year on goal-setting execution. And leadership.

Mark Divine 41:03
Hit me up when you’re ready to launch that, I’ll either have you back on or we’ll help you promote that.

Chris Duffin 41:08
Okay. Yeah, I’m gonna send you, if I have your email, a trailer for a movie that will be coming out early this spring as well. Grand Goals, so it’s a documentary that was being filmed. Follow my social media, that trailer will be dropping here probably within the next month.

Mark Divine 41:23
What are your social media handles Chris?

Chris Duffin 41:25
The single best point of contact is to go to my website just Chris duffin.com and there’s links to Kabuki Strength, Bearfoot, build fast all my other stuff and I will sign up for the email list on there. And I’ll send you the first half of my book for free. No Strings Attached along with discount codes for all the companies so exclusive ones and some exclusive like free educational content. So Chris Duffin, like muffin, but with a D. Easier to remember that way. The handles, I don’t know just type in Chris Duffin. I have the little blue check thing, the ones I interact on the most it’d be Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Mark Divine 42:05
Awesome, Chris. Appreciate your time today. Thanks for everything you’re doing, it’s an incredible story. And, man, your work you’re doing is fantastic. I can’t wait to learn more. Chris duffin.com. I’m gonna go sign up. I’ll be on your newsletter, Chris. I’ll make sure you have my email through my assistant, whoever set this up. Let’s connect again when your next book comes out. And people need to know how to do goal setting better and learn from your methodology. So once again, I appreciate your time.

Chris Duffin
Thank you

Mark Divine
Have an amazing 2022 my friend, hoo-yah

Chris Duffin
Yeah, thank you.

Mark Divine
Wow, that was amazing. Chris, thanks so much for your time today. I absolutely love that interview. You are extreme inspiration to me. I mean, your story, as you tell about in The Eagle and the Dragon, growing up homeless, living in tents and treehouses, killing rattlesnakes, dealing with the worst of life, that was fascinating. Yet, you prevailed through it all. And your parents helped you basically become valedictorian of your high school, through an intense program of reading and dialogue, you didn’t have TV, talk about an interesting story living close to the Earth, reading by candlelight, working with your hands, and you dominate. Right and so not only that, but then in the business world, you became extremely effective CEO became an inventor, your power lifter, we talked about three things that you need to develop strength and stamina and also to accomplish anything in life, the right methods, the right tools, and the right mindset. Sounds like something I would teach.

Show Notes and transcripts will be on our website, Mark divine.com. And there’s a video going up on our YouTube channel at Mark divine.com/youtube. On social media, I am Mark Divine at Twitter, and at real Mark Divine on Instagram and Facebook. And of course, you can hit me up on LinkedIn. If you want to connect, offer any ideas or potential guests or ask to be a guest yourself. If you want to be on our email list, go to Mark Divine.com. Special shout out to my incredible team Jason Sanderson, Geoff Haskell and Amy Jurkowitz who put together this amazing show helped me bring incredible guests to it, and produce it week in and week out.

I love reviews, they help people find our show, we’ve got over 1000 5 star review, let’s take that to 5000 in 2022. So if you haven’t reviewed it, and you really find value in the show, and the guests and please do, like I said, it really makes a big difference. Also refer your friends, if you find this valuable.

Well, I don’t have to tell you, but the world is challenging right now, man with this pandemic, and negativity and divided politics, you’d think everything is falling apart, but I have a different view. I think that’s just the end of an era and we’re moving into another. And another area where empowered consciousness at scale was going to change the world. And that’s our mission here, Mark Divine and also my business, Unbeatable and SEALFIT. Our mission is to scale positive consciousness, bringing more courage and compassion in the world. And it’s this that’s going to push back against the negativity and the broken institutions of the industrial age. So why don’t you join me in that by first developing your own positivity and your own courage, and opening your heart to become more compassionate, more inclusive. It all starts with us, we have to be the change we want to see in the world, like Gandhi says, and then we bring that to others through how we show up and through how we train our families and our teams. And then we work together 100 million strong. That’s our 2045 mission vision. So I really appreciate you being on that journey with me. And if you want to learn more about the Unbeatable Mind principles and how to really train yourself to be that world centric leader and warrior then you can learn more at Mark divine.com Or at unbeatable mind dot com once again. Thank you very much. Let’s continue to make 2022 an amazing year. Hoo-yah, Divine out.

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